By John Amoda
HAKEEM Baba-Ahmed reviewed the meeting of Eminent National Leaders of Thought arranged by the National Summit Group.
The title of his piece in his “on the one hand” Vanguard February 22, 2012 Wednesday column conveys his opinion of the status and relevance of the National Leaders of Thought; he calls them: Leaders on the fringes; he calls their meeting a Summit of self-styled leaders on the fringes. He defines what he means by calling the Summit participants/leaders irrelevant:
“The Summit of our self-styled leaders on the fringes is a sad reminder that Nigeria desperately needs genuine leaders who will think through and lead it into finding solution to its real problems”.
It is obvious from Hakeem’s critique of the Summit and its agenda, that he defines the leadership that Nigeria presently needs in terms of the problems facing Nigeria and the solutions proposed to the problems identified. He thus describes them:
“The self-acclaimed leaders, the vast majority of whom were all elderly men, who have never tested their popularity or acceptability with the Nigerian people through the democratic process, or any other means that will entitle them to speak for the Nigerian people, know each other very well, and have spoken the same language to each other for many years. A few among them who see themselves as moderates say the nation could survive as one entity, but each tribe must say how it wants to relate with other tribes, as a basis for the survival of the Nigerian nation. They say all Nigerian ethnic groups must meet and agree to restructure the Nigerian federal system in such a manner that it becomes essentially a federation of tribes… They say our Constitution is an illegitimate document because it is not the product of tribal conferences and consensus… (If these prescriptions are implemented- my connective). “Then all our problems of corrupt and inept leadership, insecurity, unacceptable levels of poverty and massive alienation from a democratic process which merely allows the wealthy to grab power by all means necessarily will disappear”.
Baba-Ahmed asks the conveners of the Summit whether the restructure they propose and the process of a Sovereign National Conference they prescribe address the problems of corrupt and inept leadership, insecurity, unacceptable levels of poverty, massive alienation from a democracy that is established to allow “the wealthy to grab power by all means necessary?”.
Thus summarised, Dr. Baba-Ahmed’s condescending and dismissive critique of a Summit of Nigerian establishment elite can be said to be one of a difference of prescription to the Summit’s analysis of the state of the Nigerian nation and union. We so conclude because Dr. Baba-Ahmed is in full agreement with the Summit he so severely critique because like them, he knows that all is not well with Nigeria. He states:
“There are many things wrong with our federal system and our Constitution.
*Why do we need a bi-cameral legislature when it is obviously wasteful and the cost of governance has become unbearable?
*Why should a few states receive so much of our national resources under a revenue sharing formula which impoverishes other parts of a federal system, and generates massive social and security problems for the nation?
*Why should elected leaders receive so much pay for serving their nation, and making political offices the fastest route to wealth?
*Why shouldn’t larger but fewer federating units have their own police, and much more responsibility for socio-economic development which is currently being handled unsatisfactorily by the Federal Government?
*Why haven’t tribes given room to the emergence of citizens?
*How could a nation blessed as Nigeria fail to live up to its full economic and political potential?
*Why do we need 36 states when the six geopolitical zones can suffice as federating units?”
The crux of the dispute Baba-Ahmed has with the Summit is thus one of approach. The Sheraton Summit assumes that search for solutions to what is wrong with Nigeria must include revisiting the terms and origin of the Nigerian society. Dr. Baba-Ahmed on the other hand subscribes to the doctrine of settled issues, one of which is the sacredness of the National Union. Hakeem states his position:
“There are many things wrong with our federal system and our Constitution, but whatever we think of the origin and evolution of the Nigerian State, the fact of a Nigerian nation made up of many ethnic groups has been an accepted fact in our lives, and has been built with blood, sweat and hard work. No Nigerian should be ashamed of the historic origin of the nation, and its history cannot be an impediment to making it work well for its citizens. It is not by any means a perfect arrangement, but any useful discussion on its defects must acknowledge that a gathering of elitist, elderly Nigerians who see themselves not as concerned citizens but as tribal leaders cannot wish it away”.
From the above we can see the following:
*Hakeem demands that all searches for solutions to what is wrong with Nigeria must be reformative which implies support for the continued existence of Nigeria as presently structured.
*I believe that Hakeem’s positive contribution to the discourse on “What Is Wrong With Nigeria?” should be salvaged and not be allowed to be also angrily dismissed by opponents because of his petulant and youthful arrogance. Hakeem’s position on the discourse on What Is Wrong With Nigeria can be phrased as a strategic question viz- Is it a settled issue from analysis of What Is Wrong With Nigeria that Nigeria is unfixable? If calls for SNC should be decided after the above question has been answered, why jump the gun? If proponents of an SNC should not jump the gun, neither should those who share Hakeem’s position jump the gun. A National Conference devoted to analytical engagement with What is Wrong with Nigeria and how it can be fixed or transformed is a matter of urgency and immediate relevance.
Such a national dialogue is feasible if we adapt the method of Baba-Ahmed in listing what are the things wrong with Nigeria without a prior foreclosure of any outcome of such an national review and critique of the Nigerian condition.
We should learn from the origination of the The Federalist Papers. After a successful war of independence the founders of AmericanRepublic reached the conclusion that the Confederal structure of the alliance of states by which the war was waged should be reformed and they set up a committee to produce a more effective structure of the Confederation and to propose a reformed Articles of Confederation. The Federalist Papers was the outcome of the thinking-through of the analysis of what was Wrong With the Confederal Union of The American States.